The free movement of migrant labour after the integration of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) later this year is expected to bring more benefits than drawbacks for the Thai economy.
A rising workforce would stimulate economic activities, which in turn would boost consumption, according to the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI).
Yongyuth Chalamwong, the TDRI’s labour development research director, said the free movement of migrant workers was expected to be a boon since it would ensure a continued supply of labour to help run Thailand’s microeconomy, which would help boost purchasing power and the overall economy.
This would help offset concerns over social problems as well as social-related costs caused by the rising number of migrant workers, he said.
He said the TDRI estimated the increasing number of migrant workers would help add around 1% to GDP.
However, the increasing flow of foreign labour could also raise social costs if there is any mismanagement of migrant workers.
“The rapid rise in the workforce could cause some social problems and conflicts if it is not handled well,” said Mr. Yongyuth, adding that some Thai professionals are concerned there would be fewer jobs for Thai citizens.
However, Mr. Yongyuth said the AEC would not have an impact on professional jobs as Thailand has rules and regulations to control such jobs and most of them are overseen by their own institutes.
“For example, Asean engineers seeking work in Thailand have to follow rules and regulations set by the Engineering Institute of Thailand, which oversees the profession,” said Mr. Yongyuth, adding that it would be another way to ensure engineering jobs would be reserved for Thais.
The number of foreign engineers working in Thailand would also be controlled through work permits granted by the government, he added.
However, some types of jobs in the service sector, such as housekeepers, cooks and tour operators, would be more difficult to control.
He said that certain service jobs would be easy to transfer to Thailand without tight regulations to control them and there would be fewer jobs of this kind for Thais.
Thailand is likely to face a shortage of low-skilled labour and will need to rely heavily on migrant workers as an increasing number of Thais move towards less physically demanding and more skilled jobs.
Mr. Yongyuth said the government should be more flexible about regulations to allow low-skilled migrant workers to be employed by companies that face a shortage of labour in order to help them run their operations smoothly.
First published in Bangkok Post, 14 July 2015